ARC: Phantom’s Dance by Lesa Howard

Title: Phantom’s Dance

 Series: Standalone

 Author: Lesa Howard

 Genre: contemporary

 Rating: ★

 In short: a pleasant read, engaging and with likeable (although not very rounded) characters and some pretty good suspense.

Mild spoilers under the cut.

Goodreads: Christine Dadey’s family uprooted their lives and moved to Houston for her to attend the prestigious Rousseau Academy of Dance. Now, two years later, Christine struggles to compete among the Academy’s finest dancers, her parents are on the brink of divorce, and she’s told no one about her debilitating performance anxiety and what she’s willing to do to cope with it. Erik was a ballet prodigy, a savant, destined to be a star on the world’s stage, but a suspicious fire left Erik’s face horribly disfigured. Now, a lonely phantom forced to keep his scars hidden, he spends his nights haunting the theater halls, mourning all he’s lost. Then, from behind the curtain he sees the lovely Christine. The moldable, malleable Christine. Drawn in by Erik’s unwavering confidence, Christine allows herself to believe Erik’s declarations that he can transform her into the dancer she longs to be. But Christine’s hope of achieving her dreams may be her undoing when she learns Erik is not everything he claims. And before long, Erik’s shadowy past jeopardizes Christine’s unstable present as his obsession with her becomes hopelessly entangled with his plans for revenge.

This book comes with trigger warnings for assault.

Phantom’s Dance is a retelling of The Phantom of the Opera, but I can’t attest to its accuracy to the original storylinebecause I don’t know it. I know, I know, what am I doing with my life. But this book was certainly enjoyableand it did surprise me as well.

The story starts off quite sweetly. Christine is a likeable, if a little naïve, ballerina in training. She has an audition for her academy’s company, but she’s secretly terrified that she won’t make it, or that the ballet life isn’t for heror worse things. Even so, there’s a cute boy and a cute romance, and a best friend that I really, really appreciatedand some street-dancing that helps Christine think about her focus on technique rather than letting loose. Though there are strange occurrences in the academy where Christine is studying, all seems well. Until a mysterious male dancer starts giving Christine tips on how to dance bettertips that seem to work.

I had few problems with this book. Christine and her best friend felt the most fleshed-out of all the characters, and I wish the others had been too. I particularly liked that the love interest, Raoul, was more realistic than the beautiful, poetic YA male lead who’s basically about 0.1% of the male population. I also liked that her parents were around so much! Good job for non-absentee parents.

On the other hand, I felt like Phantom’s Dance could’ve used length and at the same time coherence. Length, so that characters and plot points could’ve been developed better and the resolution sorted out better. I liked the conclusion, yes, but I wish the last few chapters had been less hurried. Coherence, because I felt like several plot points that were interesting seemed to lead to nowhere. The story didn’t feel like it had much direction, or that it led to a particular goal. To give one example, Christine’s glimpses of the street dancers didn’t seem very relevant to the story. I kept thinking it would come back somewhere, but…it didn’t. I get that the fluidity and the laidback-ness of street dancing helped Christine let her ballet flow better, but I wish the connection had been more properly defined rather than an inference I had to make. There are some places where I like subtlety. Not here so much.

The ending I’m a bit dicey about (while I liked the final conclusion) because I think it could have been handled better and more at lengthagain, if it had been longer. But overall, I’d say I did like this read!

I received a free galley of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

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